Back in Provence

I wish this photo could show just how spectacular this rainbow was. I have never seen such a huge rainbow. Maybe it was because the sun was setting and shining directly across the sky to the water in the air. It was almost other-wordly and a delight to see.
We are back in Provence and returned to find a new crop of weeds and everything looking healthy and green, especially our grass, as it has been raining alot. I even had a crop of eggplants, zuchinni, and tomatoes waiting even though I didn’t leave a timed watering system going.

Here is the pile of zuchinni and eggplant. I ended up making a huge dish of ratatouille and then some eggplant parmesean. One of the zuchinnil is the largest zuchinni I’ve ever seen. It must weigh about 10 pounds and it was a foot and a half long. It has really tough skin and is rather woody tasting so I’m not sure if I’m going to cook anything with it or not.

I left it in Paris

Aren’t these cool shoes? They were worn by a guy who cut my hair. I can’t remember his name but I sure remember his shoes. I have found a good place to get my hair done in Paris, Coiffirst, which in on Rue du Buci, down a little courtyard. I’ve had my hair done there by 4 different people, and like all of their work. My first time there, however, I almost decided not to return as a lady who was having her hair frosted, was sitting there smoking. It hasn’t happened since, though.

I Left It In Paris. This is often our refrain. Just yesterday Maurice was looking for some glue. I knew I had bought a stick of glue and we looked everywhere for it before I remembered that it was in a drawer in our kitchen in Paris. I’ve never had two residences before and, being the forgetful person I am, can’t remember what is where. I have duplicated hair blowers and make-up just so I don’t have to carry them back and forth. I have a set of clothes, mostly casual and excercise ware for working in the yard, in Provence, and a dressier set in Paris. I find I am wearing things over and over as I have fewer pieces in each place, not a bad thing. The only thing I always lug back and forth is my laptop computer. One of these days, I may have a computer in each place but then I wouldn’t have my photos, etc., in one place or another.
Having two separate kitchens is interesting as well. In Paris, I have a hand held mixer, but not in Provence. Here I have one of those immersible blender thingies, sort of like a blender, the old fashioned kind, but you don’t pour a mixture into the blender, you put the blender into the container, if you know what I mean. I have a food processer in Provence, but not Paris. I do alot more cooking in Provence and try new recipes mostly because all of my cookbooks are there.
I can’t really complain since I am lucky enough to live in two places in France but it sure is a source of frustration sometimes.

More on Gownless in France

More On Topless in France

The comment by someone in Singapore (I can’t help but to wonder if the americans are being too paranoid? No offense to you but I just find it very interesting about the reactions of the American. ) got me thinking some more about cultural differences. Because she is from Singapore, she really doesn’t understand my feelings, and they were very traumatic to me, about not having a gown for an x-ray or doctor’s examination. Truly, you have to be an American to understand how I felt. I’ve told this story to other Americans and they get it. That Puritanical streak is bone deep and I don’t know if I will ever be able to get rid of it. I know my husband is very mystified by it. Why can’t I go for a free mammogram? Why is the thought of it so repellant to me? He and our doctor sat there once in an office and discussed it in front of me. I wasn’t the first American in whom she had seen this trait.
I’m sure it is similar to cultural food differences. You won’t see me eating horse meat or even sweet little rabbits, no matter how tasty they might be, mustard sauce and all, even with a good bottle of Burgundy. I imagine there are people in China who shake their heads with bewilderment when Americans are horrified that little dogs are being served up for dinner, or a snake or two.
Back to Puritanism, I remember my ex-husband spanking our daughter when she was about 4 years old for playing “doctor” with a neighborhood boy. Somewhere around the age of 5 or so, she never took baths with her brothers or was undressed in front of them. Maurice’s grandchildren have no problem with nudity and are very unselfconscious about it. I need to do some research but I think it was only recently, within the last 30 years or so, that it wasn’t against the law to go topless on a French beach. I think the French have been considered more open about sex and nudity both in real life and movies for many years. It does seem to me, as far as movies go, that America is catching up here.
A couple of years ago, I was walking around on a Montmartre street and here came two men walking towards me, both totally nude. My French was practically non-existant then but I gathered that they were promoting nudity. There was even a strange lady with them wearing a coat over a slip videotaping them. I don’t know if she was going to join them and chickened out at the last minute. I asked a lady at a bar that they went into if she was shocked and I could tell by her face that she was. She said if a policeman saw them that they would be arrested, French or not. Luckily, I had my trusty digital camera with me and got several photos of them-they happily posed for me- one of which was the two of them talking to some startled diners with their exposed “privates” at face level. I captioned the photo, “How is the sausage here?”
In any case, there is a wide divide between cultures although being human gives us many similarites. Life is always interesting, that’s for sure.

My Favorite French Recipes

Here is a really easy recipe that tastes terrific. All of my recipes, by the way, are from an out of print cookbook that Maurice found in Austin-written by two American ladies.

Garlicky Scallops and Shrimp (Fruits de Mer a la Provencale)

6 large sea scallops (for 2 people)
6-8 large shrimp, peeled. You can leave the tails on if you want.
flour, for dusting
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper

Rinse the scallops under cold running water. Pat dry and cut in half
crosswise. Season the scallops and shrimp with salt and pepper and
dust lightly with flour, shaking off excess.
Heat oil in large frying pan over high heat and add scallops and shrimp.
Reduce heat to medium-high, turn the scallops and shrimp, add the garlic
and basil, shaking pan to distribute them evenly. Cook for 2 minutes more
until golden and just firm to the tourch. Sprinkle the lemon juice over and toss
to blend. Serve with rice.
You can remove scallops and shrimp after cooking to warm plate, pour 4 Tbsp
dry white wine into pan and boil to reduce by half. Add 1 Tbsp butter whisking
until it melts and pour over scallops and shrimp. Good, but not necessary.

Autumn in France

Autumn has arrived


I’m not sure which is my favorite season. There is nothing like the freshness of Spring with new plants sending out shoots of tender leaves and flowers budding with their promise of colorful flowers to come. Summer is great with warm temperatures that lure you outside, wonderful lunches and dinners outside on the terrace, just the well-being that comes with blue skies and sunshine. Even though a little sense of melancholy often tinges the arrival of Autumn, I do love it. I love the cool mornings and the evenings where you can leave the windows open at night as mother nature blows her cool air on you as you sleep. The chestnut trees seem to be the first trees in France to announce that a change of season is coming when their huge green leaves are ringed in brown which slowly moves inward toward the center of each leave. Eventually the leaves turn either golden or orange. Maurice get an a feeling of melancholy when the chestnuts themselves fall to the ground as this used to be a sign to him that it was time to return to boarding school. There are many pines here in the Luberon which remain green as do some of the oaks, but many trees become bare and many oaks are covered with brown leaves. I’ve left winter out. I love fresh snowfall, when I see it, and I enjoy a nice fire in the fireplace when the temperatures fall and the wind is blowing but I always anxiously await the coming Spring and the joy of getting outside again.
I recently read what I thought was a really good biography/memoir by a lady named Patricia Atkinson. The book is called The Ripening Sun and it is about how, after her husband bought a vineyard in France and basically abandoned her for various reasons, she goes on to make her vineyard and its wine a success and find a life she never dreamed of. I identify with her in many ways-the unexpected pleasure and joy of a life undreamed of before. In the front of her book is a wonderful poem that really speaks to me of the pleasure in the season of Autumn.


I solitary court
The inspiring breeze, and meditate the book
Of Nature, ever open, aiming thence
Warm from the heart to learn the moral song
And, as I steal along the sunny wall,
Where autumn basks, with fruit empurpled deep,
My pleasing theme continual prompts my thought-

Presents the downy peach, the shining plum
With a fine bluish mist of animals
Clouded, the ruddy nectarine, and dark
Beneath his ample leaf the luscious fig,
The vine too here her curling tendrils shoots,
Hangs out her cluster glowing to the south,
And scarcely wishes for a warmer sky.

James Thomson 1700-1748

Paris Meridian Medallions

A close-up photo of one of the medallions.

Paris Meridian Medallions
Would you believe that there is art in Paris that most people never see and often walk on unknowingly? Few people are aware of these 135 bronze medallions embedded in Paris’ pavement, which start north in Montmartre and go clear across Paris, where they end at the Cité Universitaire on the edge of the city limits and Parc Montsouris.
I had noticed one of them while visiting the Palais Royal; it was a little bronze circle embedded in the pavement with the name Arago and north and south represented by the letter n and s. Since I had no idea who Arago was I thought nothing else about it until a friend told me that the medallions represented a meridian line that used to be used in Paris.
Why did Paris have its own meridian? Actually, the French were very advanced in the science of time and the measurement of the earth. French scientist Abbé Jean Picard first measured the length of a degree of longitude and computed from it the size of the earth in 1655. In fact, the metric system was started at this time, the meter being 1 ten-millionth of a meridian quadrant from the North Pole to the equator. France, along with Ireland, adhered to the Paris Meridian for time keeping until 1911 and for navigation until 1914, when it finally converted to the Greenwich Meridian with the rest of the world.
Who was Arago? He was a scientist and a statesman who became director of the Paris Observatory where he lived until his death in 1853. There is a monument to him across Arago Boulevard in Place Ile de Sein in the 14th arrondissement but the statue of him was melted down during World War II and never replaced. In 1995 Paris commissioned Dutch conceptual artist Jan Dibbits to create a new memorial. And now you can follow the path of this art through gardens, streets, buildings, courtyards and quais, through the 2nd, 6th, 9th, 10th and 12th arrondissements. As you do so you will notice that practically nothing built in Paris is on any straight north, south, east or west axis, neither streets or buildings. You can find a medallion on one side of a building and have to go blocks out of your way to get to the other side to find yet another medallion. The whole thing can become rather addictive.
I found a list that gave approximate locations of the Arago medallions and set out thinking that they would be easy to find. This was not true. I soon learned, however, that noting the direction of north and south would help me find the next medallion if I followed the imaginary line from one to another. During my search, I discovered that many have been dug up leaving an empty round hole in its place. People stopped to ask what I had lost as I walked around scanning the ground, searching for these mysterious spheres. It was easy to confuse the medal discs from a distance with the many gas or plumbing coverings, which are everywhere but unnoticed until now.
I had hoped to do the search all in one day, and this could be done, but after 3 exhausting hours the first day, I spread it out. My husband joined me on day one at the observatory, or at least at the locked gates of the garden where the observatory is. The observatory itself is built on the line of the Parisian Meridian with the four facades oriented towards the four points of the compass. We found the monument to Arago with several medallions from there and ended up in beautiful Parc Montsouris where the marker for the southern edge stands. Going straight north from this we found 4 more medallions and discovered they are always embedded in cement or asphalt, never dirt or grass. One day I walked through the Saint Germain des Pres area, through the Luxembourg gardens (there are 6 there) and even went into Saint Sulpice church where there is an obelisk on the north/south axis in a corner. The early church officials used to use this to watch the movement of the sun to determine the date of Easter. It is an ancient calender, actually, and has nothing to do with the Paris Meridian Line.
I walked through Palais Royal, across the street to the Louvre where not only does a line of medallions run through the courtyard behind the glass pyramid, but there is also one inside the Louvre. I went on the other side of the Louvre, found one on the quai, crossed Pont des Arts and found one in front of the Institut de France and then one behind it.
The northern marker is in Montmartre but can’t be seen as it is in a private courtyard. I walked downhill from here through Montmartre finding medallions all the way to Pigalle where most had been removed at some point leaving either round holes or nothing. The line continued all the way down to Boulevard Haussmann.
It turned out to be a very interesting way to see Paris. I didn’t go to just one metro stop to see a monument such as the Opéra, but walked across neighborhoods with a new eye, realizing how small Paris can be, how connected all of the neighborhoods are. It turned out to be an adventurous way to explore Paris.